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WILDLIFE HARVEST AND POPULATION STATUS REPORT 

NORTHERN BOBWHITE -2008 

Beth Cole, Agricultural Wildlife Ecologist 

Missouri Department of Conservation 

QUAIL ABUNDANCE 

Conservation Agents and Protection Division volunteers conducted roadside 
counts of bobwhite quail from August 1-15 in 107 of Missouri's 1 14 counties. Clay, 
Jackson, St. Louis, and St. Charles counties are not included because they are high 
density urban areas near Kansas City and St. Louis. Newton and Greene counties in the 
southwest portion of the state were dropped from the respective analyses due to outliers 
in the data. Worth County in the northwest region was not included because the survey 
route was not run due to water over the roadway. Surveyors count the number of quail 
observed while driving < 20 miles per hour along permanent 30-mile gravel road routes. 
Participants are instructed to conduct counts beginning at sunrise on clear, dewy 
mornings with light winds to increase chances that bobwhite will be near roadsides. 
These observations are used to provide an index of quail abundance across the landscape. 
Because only a small portion of each county is sampled, the index best represents quail 
population trends at large scales, such as statewide and multi-county blocks such as the 
zoogeographic region. The statewide long-term trend of the index closely follows other 
statewide indices of abundance including the North American Breeding Bird Survey 
(BBS) and Missouri quail harvest estimates. The roadside survey routes are run almost 
entirely through private land, so the quail index is a reflection of conditions on Missouri's 
private lands. 

This year's statewide index of 2.9 quail per 30 mile route is 12% below last year's index 
of 3.3. This is 17% below the 5-year average (2003-2007) and 25% below the 10-year 
average (1998-2007) (Table 1). Production appeared to be low this year, with the 
statewide average chick count at 0.8, 45% below last year's count. Total quail counts 
were variable among zoogeographic regions with counts being highest in the 
Northeastern Riverbreaks (4.9), followed by the Ozark Plateau (3.2) and the Western 
Prairie (3.0). Counts were lowest in the Northern and Eastern Ozark Border (0.7) and the 
Mississippi Lowland (0.9) (Table 1). Statewide long-term trends (1983-2008) are shown 
in Figure 2 and trends by zoogeographic region are shown in Figure 3. Both figures 
illustrate a long-term downward trend in bobwhite populations. 

Weather conditions over the past year may have negatively impacted bobwhite this year. 
Temperatures in February and March were colder than average statewide, a period when 
food is scarce for adult birds. The southwest and Ozark portions of the state experienced 
significant ice storms in December and February. The same region also had severe 



weather spawning 33 tornados and flash flooding on January 7-8. Overall, statewide, 
temperatures ranged from 2-8 degrees above average in December and January but 
precipitation was about 48% above average. February through May had cooler than 
normal temperatures and precipitation that ranged from 27% to 130% above normal 
(NOAA Midwestern Regional Climate Center). Precipitation continued to remain above 
normal throughout the summer, resulting in localized flooding events in many regions of 
the state. The cool, wet spring could have resulted in a negative impact on nesting and 
chick survival. Such events can destroy nests and cause chicks to die from hypothermia 
because their feathers are not developed enough to insulate the birds at a young age. 
Bobwhites are fairly prolific and populations can quickly recover from losses due to 
weather if habitat conditions are good. 

Habitat conditions in Missouri vary from good to poor throughout the state. Over-grazed, 
fescue-dominated pastures, loss of native grass stands, removal of low growing, dense 
woody cover, and increased commodity prices have all led to losses in preferred 
bobwhite habitat. Many programs are in place to assist private landowners in improving 
bobwhite habitat on their property, including the USDA Conservation Reserve Program 
(CRP), Conservation Buffers for Upland Birds (CP 33), MDC programs, and habitat 
programs from organizations including Quail Unlimited and Quail and Pheasants 
Forever. 

TABLE 1 . Average number of quail counted per 30-mile route by Conservation Agents 
along 107 routes during August 1-15, 2008. 



Zoogeographic 
Region^ 


#0f 

Routes 

In 
2008 


Quail 
counted 

2008 


Quail 
counted 

2007 


Long Term 
Average 

1983-2007 


% CHANGE 
from Long- 
Term Average 


% CHANGE 
2007 to 2008 


Northwest Prairie 


11 


2.82 


5.73 


7.87 


-27.2% 


-50.8% 


Nortliem 
Riverbreaks 


10 


2.40 


5.20 


7.84 


-33.7% 


-53.8% 


Northeast 
Riverbreaks 


20 


4.95 


3.26 


9.59 


-66.0% 


51.8% 


Western 
Prairie 


12 


3.08 


3.25 


15.50 


-79.0% 


-5.2% 


Western Ozark 
Border 


11 


2.45 


2.85 


6.88 


-58.5% 


-14.0% 


Ozark Plateau 


24 


3.17 


2.92 


2.98 


-1.9% 


8.6% 


Northern & Eastern 
Ozark Border 


12 


0.67 


1.92 


2.77 


-30.7% 


-65.1% 


Mississippi 
Lowlands 


7 


0.86 


1.43 


5.73 


-75.0% 


-39.9% 


Statewide 


107 


2.88 


3.30 


7.21 


-54.2% 


-12.7% 



^See figure 1. 



Northwestern 
Prairie 



Norttiern Riverbreal<s 



Western Prairie 



Western Ozark 
Border 



Nortlieast Riverbreal<s 




Norttiern & Eastern 
Ozarl^ Border 



ississippi Lowlands 



FIGURE 1 . Zoogeographic regions of Missouri. 



40 
35 
30 



^ 25 



3 

o 



20 



-i 15 



10 
5 



n, f 1, [ ], n , [ ], n , n , n , n ,n,ij j , 



1983 1988 1993 1998 

STATEWIDE AVERAGE 



2003 



2008 



FIGURE 2. Statewide average number of quail counted per route from 1983-2008. 



40 
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O30 
^25 
<20 
015 
<10 
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1983 1988 1993 1998 2003 

NORTHWESTERN PRAIRIE 



2008 



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015 
<10 



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1983 1988 1993 1998 

NORTHERN RIVERBREAKS 



2003 



2008 



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1983 1988 1993 1998 2003 

NORTHEASTERN RIVERBREAKS 



2008 



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1983 1988 1993 1998 2003 
WESTERN PRAIRIE 



2008 



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1983 1988 1993 1998 2003 
WESTERN OZARK BORDER 



2008 



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1983 1988 1993 1998 
OZARK PLATEAU 



2003 



2008 



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I ■ I I I ■ ■ ■ ■ I I ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ 



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1983 1988 1993 1998 2003 200£ 
NORTHERN AND EASTERN OZARK BORDER 



40 

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:;!io 



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■ ■ ■ 



1983 1988 1993 1998 2003 
MISSISSIPPI LOWLANDS 



2008 



FIGURE 3. Mean quail per 30-mile route by zoogeographic region from 1983-2008. 



2007 HUNTING SEASON 

MDC collects harvest information from a post-season mail survey of a random sample of 
Missouri small game permit holders to estimate hunting activity at regional and statewide 
scales. The 2007 season (November 1, 2007 to January 15, 2008) again showed a 
decrease in both the number of quail hunters and quail harvest. The number of quail 
hunters during the 2007 season was 27,830, which was 7.6% lower than the 30,1 19 
hunters from the 2006 season. The total number of birds harvested in 2007 was 258,448, 
an 1 1.5% decrease from the 2006 season when hunters harvested 292,080 birds (Figure 
4). While the number of hunters and birds harvested continue to decline, the number of 
birds bagged per day (a statewide index of hunting success) remains relatively stable. 
The number of birds bagged per day was 1.58 in 2007 compared to 1.59 in 2006. The 
Western Ozark region had the highest number of birds bagged per day with 1 .95, 
followed by the Northern Riverbreaks region with 1 .86 in 2007. In the 2007 season, 
quail hunters averaged 5.87 days afield and had a season average bag of 9.29 birds. 
Overall hunters spent 163,364 total days afield in 2007. 

Missouri Quail Hunting Trends 1967-2007 



4.5 



U) 

ca 



(0 

a 

< 

C 

c -u 

= "U 



3.5 



£Z 






o 
w 

w 



3 - 



2.5 



— 1.5 



0.5 




200,000 



180,000 



160,000 

140,000 

120,000 

100,000 

80,000 

60,000 

40,000 

20,000 



^ ^ ^ ^ ,^ ^ ^ ,^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ,^ ^ ^ ^ ^ r^ 



V) 

3 



n 
E 

3 



■Ave. Daily Bag 



Season Haivest 



■Numbei of Hunters 



FIGURE 4. Missouri quail hunting trends from 1967-2007. Hunting season bag in 
millions and daily bag (birds/day) are combined on the left axis. The right axis shows the 
number of hunters per year.